John Singer Sargent's Self-Portrait, 1906    (Frontpage)  (What's New)  (Thumbnails)  (Refer This Site)
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Self Portraits 
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Self-Portrait, 1886  

Self-Portrait, 1892  

Self Portrait 1906
John Singer Sargent -- American painter  
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence 
Oil on canvas 
76.2 x 63.5 cm (30 x 25 in.)
 Jpg: CGFA
(click on the image to step closer)
That Sargent would paint such a distinguished and fully finished self-portrait might seem strange given that by 1907 he had grown intolerably weary of portraiture. In fact, he was doing everything he could to avoid taking on new commissions, but of the three oil self-portraits, this one seems the most distinguished to me -- maybe because of his age.  

But why?  

It seems we have the Uffizi Gallery of Florence, to thank for this painting. 

In a rare honor the Uffizi asked Sargent for his portrait to add to their collection of Self-portraits which is unique in the world.

It had previously been thought that Sargent had painted this in 1907, but Sargent scholars Ormond and Kilmurray have uncovered that it was in the first quarter of the previous year ('06) when the honoured invitation came to him. Sargent accepted the request to the director of the Royal Galleries of Florance on March 2nd: "I highly appreciate the honour you confer upon me by the invitation to contribute my portrait to the historical collection in your galleries. I beg to express my thanks to you for this privilege, of which I will most gladly avail myself" (Archivio Gallerie Fiorentine, Arte 551; quoted in "The Later Portraits," Ormond and Kilmurray, p. 177)

For those that don't know, the Uffizi Gallery is the prominent gallery in Florence and houses one of the finest collections in the world. In the mid 17th century, Cardinal Leopoldo de' Medici began collecting self-portraits of great Masters which started this rare collection, and the Gallery would continued collecting self-portraits from distinguished artist up through the 20th century -- I assume they're still doing it. Sargent had been asked to join in the company of such men as Michelangelo, Rembrant, Titian, Ingres, Velazquez, Van Dyck, Rubens, Canova, Delacroix, Bernini, Salvator Rosa, Hayez, Corot, Beccafumi, Annibale Carracci -- and on -- and on -- and on. 

Other artists, contemporary to Sargent, whom had already been asked were Bonnat, Fantin-Latour, Bouguereau and Zorn. In that same year, Philip Wilson Steel was also asked to join.
When Sargent finally painted the portrait he was on his trip to the Val d'Aosta. Always enjoyng the opportunity to paint out of doors, he did it by hanging a mirror to a tree. 



John Singer Sargent, An Exhibition -- Whitney Museum, NY & The Art Institute of Chicago 1986-1987

Sargent and Italy, 2002-2003


By:  Natasha Wallace
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Created 1/4/2002